Leukemia

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.

—Ernest Hemingway A Farewell to Arms the word leukemia literally means "white blood." Leukemia is the term used to describe cancer of the blood-forming tissues known as bone marrow. This spongy material fills the long bones in the body and produces blood cells. In leukemia, the bone marrow creates an overabundance of abnormal young white cells (blasts). As the bone marrow becomes packed with blasts, production of red cells (which carry oxygen and nutrients to body tissues), neutrophils (which fight bacterial infections), lymphocytes (which fight bacterial and viral infections) and platelets (which help form clots to stop bleeding) slows and stops. This results in a low red blood cell count (anemia), low neutrophils (neutropenia) and lymphocytes (lymphopenia) and a low platelet count (thrombocytopenia).

This chapter first looks at the function and composition of blood. Then it examines who gets leukemia, what the signs and symptoms are, how it is diagnosed, and how doctors determine the prognosis. The current treatments for each type of leukemia are outlined. The chapter ends with a discussion of how to talk with your child about the disease.

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